Wednesday, April 07, 2021

The old Jewish cemetary in Vilna

I have written about this in the past, the petition has over fifty thousand signatures. But alas, it appears the Lithuanian government is going ahead with building over it. The latest news by Andrius Kulikauskas who is located in Vilna, is here. For the background please check out this :

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

York, England - 1272 expulsion of Jews

 This was a place of terrible Jewish slaughter, there is no way that the Yorkers can deny it. But alas, they have rewritten their history of the past hundred years. Whilst Jews were thriving in the past century in England, it was only around in the very late 20th century, that Jews were allowed to live in York. Somehow they have deleted this part of their recent history. How did they do that? 

In 1290, King Edward I ordered the departure of all Jews from the United Kingdon (Edict of Expulsion). The Jews were given a choice to convert or exile. Most chose the latter as opposed to what followed in Portugal and Spain some centuries later.

Edward became king in 1272 and showed future leaders how to adopt anti-Jewish measures. These included prohibitions on money-lending by Jews, a principal form of livelihood for members of the community. It was not until 1656 - some 400 years later - that Oliver Cromwell officially allowed for their return. In parts of England (e.g. York) it took until the 21st century to finally welcome Jews back.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Lithuanian anti-semitism - new facts are out

Finally there are others getting involved in the importance of facing the facts and that by covering them up in the rewriting of our history, hurts the people who the lies are told about. I've learned in my older age that this is common, governments don't want their people to know certain facts, especially crimes that they commit.  

The Times of Israel are now acknowledging an amazing woman who has effectively martyred hereself and is now seen to be a Russian collaborator, one of the most harmful things to say to a Lithuanian.  Jewish "Nazi hunter" - 'Efraim Zuroff and Ruta Vanagaite chronicle a partnership and budding friendship as they seek to convince her countrymen to face a genocide perpetrated in part by their forebears

I also want to record a comment I received from a Lithuanian, I try to keep in touch with some to understand their mentality. He says:

"Oh G_d! Alan, to be honest you are in the propoganga circle which you like to accept. I do not think I want to continue talking about the Lithaunians killing Jewish. However, I admit that some of Lithaunians shot Jewish at some point that was their choice, so what now??? What that anger will change in your life??? If you look closer every country with the holocaust past killed Jewish including Latvians, Belarusians, Romanians and Ukrainians. 

Ruta Vanagaite, at the same time, she is with Russians and she is one of the people who was removed from the Lithaunian poet’s/writers elite saying that our freedom rebels were killing Jewish, which is a total bullshit.

Now, with all the respect, I do not want to eacalate this further. If you hate Lithaunia and its people so much, nothing will change your mind. Discussion about me helping you to understand or sharing my oppinion with you is a waste of time."

I dare not share the Russian publication lauding her here - I recommend the video if you understand, and here more excepts from the book in Lithuianian "Ours. A Journey with the Enemy"

I have not seen the film they made yet... I do look forward to seeing ti... 

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Great design

I think good design principles are good for leaders to know and understand. Corporate identity is the basics, this is a useful departure for discussion I thought:
7 Practical Tips for Cheating at Design Improving your designs with tactics instead of talent.
1. Use color and weight to create hierarchy instead of size
2. Don’t use grey text on colored backgrounds
a.Reduce the opacity of white text
b.Hand-pick a color that’s based on the background color
3. Offset your shadows
4. Use fewer borders
a. Use a box shadow
b. Use two different background colors
c. Add extra spacing
5. Don’t blow up icons that are meant to be small
6. Use accent borders to add color to a bland design
7. Not every button needs a background color

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Lithuania - a place of my family ancestry, sadly

Recently I was reminded of the truth and reconciliation process which happened in South Africa after we gained full democracy and to deal with any of the atrocities of apartheid. I now realise how deeply blessed we are for having had this opportunity. A few weeks ago I was confronted by a harassing situation involving two Lithuanians. It reminded me of my ancestry and these terrible stories that I have read and seen documented by my brothers and sisters. We have not had any truth and reconciliation from the Lithuanians, I think it's safe to say as a nation, they are - imho - the worst.

Over the past decade or two, Grant Arthur Gochin has started addressing the issue by capturing detailed interactions with the President and ombudsman and other political officials. It appears to be very serious situation right now since the grave of the world renowned Vilna Gaon is under threat. The Lithuanians wish to build - or extend - the convention centre there. Please read Grants blog for more information on how the Lithuanians have refused to remove the decorations given to Lithuanians and have been distorting Holocaust facts.

Read more »

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Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Guns don't kill people

My late dad always used to explain to me that Guns do not kill people, people kill people. He really loved guns and always carried one, he also used to sell them to people for self-defense. He lost a close cousin who accidentally shot himself, although my dad never had an opportunity - and he always lived in Joburg - to shoot anyone.

So I do buy into the common hacker refrain mentioned in this amazing article I read in WIRED a few months ago; "See no evil". I can't get my mind off this story, please read it.

The "common hacker refrain is that technology is morally neutral. This libertarian (hmm.. yes I am a libertarian) ethos holds that creators shouldn't be faulted if someone uses their gadget or hunk of code to cause harm. But this case in example makes clear that the US government rejects that permissive worldview. The technically savvy are on notice that calculated ignorance of illegal activity is not an acceptable excuse." But as identified by WIRED, at what point (in the US) does a failure to be nosy edge into criminal conduct?

Last week I read another article about a (UK) scientist revealing codes for creating keys to start luxury cars. Sounds pretty much similar to the standard hacker refrain...  is this not the same thing happening in the UK too (well at least this guy in the UK doesn't have to sit in jail like in the USA)?

I did a little research by asking local people and a few foreigners about having a hiding place in ones car. Without fail, every South African thought it's a really cool thing (mainly as they thought it would be hiding things from 'criminals' breaking into ones car) and every foreigner thought what a useless thing, only criminals would want such a thing (to hide things from cops). Cultural bias?

Anyhow I'm really disturbed by the fact that Alfred Anaya - a genius at installing secret compartments in cars - was sentenced to do MORE time than the drug smugglers that used him. Can anyone explain to me if this is the case, how can the Colt and S&W factories exist in the US since they manufacture weapons that kill dozens in US every year?

In my future I'll certainly chose to holiday in Bali before Hawaii...

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Saturday, May 19, 2012

5 Life Lessons my son learned from playing World of Warcraft

This second in my series "Are computer games bad for your kids" was inspired by Esther Schindler who wrote about 10 Business Lessons I Learned from Playing Dungeons & Dragons.

Over the past six years my son has been playing World of Warcraft (wow) on and off TG. He's been through a few phases where he'll play only a few hours in a few months. Since we had to end the subs it's been a while since he's been able to play (more than eight months), I wrote most of this some time ago and it's time to share it.

I know that many parents are concerned about the addictive qualities of computer games, I think addiction can be a problem with anything. The better it feels the greater the addiction, that doesn't mean to say the rule is to stay away from the good things in life. So I'm considering; how good - or bad - is wow.

I've picked out some of the lessons he learns in the game. wow is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (mmorpg) provided on a monthly subscription by Blizzard Entertainment. The game was released on November 23, 2004, on the 10th anniversary of the Warcraft franchise. With more than 10.2m (May 2012 and 11.5 million in May 2011) monthly subscribers, World of Warcraft is the world's most-subscribed mmorpg, it's been in the Guinness Book of Records for many years.

Playing this game has more than taught my son the rules of combat or proper behavior 'in a dungeon'. He's gained several skills that I expect will help him in his adult life.

In WOW or wow, you can find out how someone solves problems and copes with stress, as well as various other activities that map to real life.
  1. Reading and writing: In Grade 2 the - special needs teacher approached me to ask what am I doing with my son? I was taken aback and responded by asking her why she is asking me this. She said that in her independent testing his reading skill was at least at grade 6 level and a lower grade 7. I know that he would say that I read with him (actually I used to read to him in bed at night) so that's how I thought best to respond. I mean the truth - which is that he learned it from wow where the chat windows in too small to follow all the messages if you can't read fluently - I don't think would have gone down too well. Anyhow, I have logged his messages and they're at a pretty good level, although it's all very specific, brief and to the point. He's learned to use digestible bytes of information, probably with a bunch of 14-17 year old Danes, Swedes and Englishmen. I'm not too worried as they have strict rules and you're not allowed to mention age or geography (there is a 12 year old age restriction though and he was only around 8-9). He doesn't embellish so his writing hasn't been well accepted at school. He manages to type a lot, so I'd say that he's fluent with keyboard even if he doesn't touch type yet. On the whole I'd say that his reading, writing and typing skills are strongly enhanced from wow.

  2. Team work and social skills: wow enables players to learn behavior that allow people to achieve social reinforcement and to avoid social punishment. Operant conditioning procedures evolve as part of the wow game, which inevitably develops social skills, as well as modeling, coaching, and social cognitive techniques all operate within the wow virtual reality. In grade 4 he was pretty upset with his mom one day, as he had told her in the morning that he had 'arrangements' with his buddies. She was a little perplexed until it became apparent that it was a wow buddies that he had arrangement with. When he reached level 80 at age 10, I really saw his leadership skills working - I think it's harder for him in the real world but in wow - he manages to pull together a team of more than 15 people to enter a battle ground and lead them all through the battle, it's really most impressive. mention the following skills, all of which personally seen my son perform in WOW: following instructions, accepting criticism, accepting “No” for an answer, staying calm, disagreeing with others, asking for help, asking permission, getting along with others, apologizing, having a conversation, giving compliments, accepting compliments, listening to others, being honest, showing sensitivity to others, introducing yourself as well as some not mentioned, like persuading others, leading a group through a complex attack strategy and managing real world time constraints.

  3. Analytical and strategic thinking: The best quests require a mixture of skills in the party. one has to always find new markets and cultivate ancillary skills. He experimented with various skills but took a liking to fishing. After fishing many lakes and playing the auction houses he found a buyer for a fairly rare type of fish. She guaranteed a buy (for a while) at a certain (inflated) rate in gold. So he fished for her and she bought, for a while. I suspect that the markets are fairly efficient in wow so she probably visited the auction houses too and found a more eager seller. And as he leveled, he found it easier to earn gold so the economics changed.
    More recently he has some older real world friends that he's helped reach higher levels. I've seen him train them on the mix of skills needed for various categories of battle. When selecting a weapon or tool, bigger is not always better, unique weapons tend to identify the heroes in the room, something he spends hours on. One action, used well, can be more powerful than plethora of actions. I've re-learned how to think out the box from his understanding os the most simple principle, "What are the tools at my disposal, and what can I do with them?" No matter how much he has experience in a specific weapon or specialty, he tried new ones and analyses the strengths and weaknesses of each element of the make up of each character. Once I find something that works I have tended to overuse it (just because it works) rather than focus on relearning new skills and techniques. It's better to out-smart an opponent than to fight one. In the early levels of wow, players can get into what feels like an endless repetition of "Find a monster. Kill it. Get its treasure." But your character (and career) can get hurt that way. Whether it's selecting appropriate quests, or setting up team efforts, winning special awards, learning special skills, playing the auction rooms or reaping the holiday spoils, the wow economy and world goes well beyond repetition. Picking up the spoils (and the experience points) can assist players develop real world physical and virtual values. It's not always appropriate but in a room of competition, an aptitude to get them to fight, can be an effective life strategy.

  4. Imagination and creative thinking: My son took on a keen ability to role play in real life. He can speak in dozens of accents with various cultural enhancements and more recently he learned how to impersonate dozens of people. He can do it on the fly.   Roleplaying (RP), or Role Playing, in World of Warcraft means taking on the role of a character and acting it out in-game through emotes, /say, /yell, and sometimes other channels. Players may also participate in roleplay outside the game by posting on blogs, wikis, or forums (official or otherwise). Roleplaying has similarities to improvisational theater, with the participants acting out characters in unscripted situations. The character's personality, goals, morals, and quirks may resemble that of the player or be completely different. Regardless, roleplayers recognize a boundary between what is in character and what is out of character.  For the advanced reader: RP also refers to RP Realms. RP servers are functionally the same as PvE Servers, with added social rules and stricter naming enforcement. The same is true for RP-PvP Servers and PvP Servers. Both sets of rules apply. RP-PvP is commonly misunderstood to mean that the roleplaying part is optional. In fact, these servers were started in response to petitioning from roleplayers, who felt that the ability to engage in PvP added realism.
    Bottom line: wow teaches role playing 

  5. Ability to disseminate information, hone ones strengths and strengthen ones weaknesses: My son lives the information and digital age, it's normal for him. Fortunately he's also learned the importance of social interaction at school. The rest is just encouragement I think. On WOW there are so many geographies, skills and talents, areas of development and options for play that every player has to learn haw to discern information (i.e. develop keen insight and good judgment). In order to identify each individuals strengths and weaknesses one has to try each and all of the potential combinations (an impossible task). As one discovers areas of interest, talent and developed skill, one has to research and explore in order to extend ones characters to deeper levels. 

  6. You don't have to read all the books: My son has read all the books, World of Warcraft is immersive no doubt about that. But they move on to other immersive worlds that all include different life lessons, and a modest description of the beast you are about to face is better than facing a daemon and trying six dozen spells before finding the right one. (If you live that long.) Do not eschew documentation. Learn from others' mistakes — or from your own. Draw a map as you go. It is easier to avoid the pitfalls and to find that hidden room the next time through.
There are many more so what did I miss? Add your own wow or other MMORG life lessons in the comments. Also see Social Impact Games

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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

What happened to the Vipercell? source GSM

The Vipercell is one of those products that 'never' made it to market, or did it? I've certainly never seen one and I can't even find any references online any more. Fortunately, I did keep a cutting (amazingly - see the image below). The web reports that it went through a few legal iterations, with Cisco at the helm. I guess when they finally won, it was a flat time and the idea dies. Last month the TV company started selling devices that receive and stream sattellite TV via a hospot to all mobile devices in range. I expect that there's still life in this idea.

"Hang Vipercell antennas on the walls of your company's far flung locations, connect it to your ethernet and pow: your branches are now free calling zones for all cell phones. Vipercell intercepts voice and and messages with all GSM phones and reroutes via IP.

Viper Cell sold to Cisco in 2000 

Perfect idea for Cisco. But the biggest customers of Cisco were the telephone companies that still make massive sums of money from GSM voice and data so the legal battle is an ideal shelter and the idea's on the shelves.
Now, it's ten years later but equally aggressive and threatening. So where's the ideal spot for the idea to bubble up...